Sand Hills Light

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Sand Hills Light
Sand Hills Lighthouse
Sand Hills Light is located in Michigan
Sand Hills Light
Location Ahmeek, Michigan
Coordinates 47°23′31″N 88°22′13.5″W / 47.39194°N 88.370417°W / 47.39194; -88.370417Coordinates: 47°23′31″N 88°22′13.5″W / 47.39194°N 88.370417°W / 47.39194; -88.370417
Year first constructed 1919
Year first lit 1919
Automated 1939[1]
Construction Yellow brick
Tower shape Square
Markings / pattern natural with black lantern and trim
Height Tower - 91 feet (28 m)[2]
Focal height Focal plane - 93 feet (28 m)[3]
Original lens Fourth order Fresnel lens with bullseye[4]
Current lens none
Range 16 nautical miles; 29 kilometres (18 mi)[5]
ARLHS number


Sand Hills Light Station
Sand Hills Light is located in Michigan
Sand Hills Light
Sand Hills Light is located in the US
Sand Hills Light
Nearest city Mohawk, Michigan
Area 55 acres (22 ha)
Architect Park, Charles A.
Architectural style Classical Revival
NRHP Reference # 94000746[8]
Added to NRHP July 27, 1994

Sand Hills is a formerly active lighthouse on the shore of Lake Superior converted into a bed and breakfast.[9] It is located in Ahmeek in Keweenaw County Michigan in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is the northern part of the Upper Peninsula. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.


From 1857 until 1908, Eagle River Light was the only lighthouse between the Keweenaw Waterway and Eagle Harbor Light. With the end of the copper boom in the 1870s the Eagle River, Michigan harbor started to decay. "By the 1890s, it seemed the only ship coming into the harbor was the lighthouse service tender." It was recommended to build a new lighthouse at Sand Hills where most of the lake traffic passing and to decommission Eagle River.[10]

A lighthouse at Sand Hills was authorized by Congress in 1893, but no funds were allocated for its construction. Meanwhile, the Eagle River Light was decommissioned and sold in 1908, leaving no navigation light in the area. Sand Hills Light was finally commissioned in 1917, in part as a response to a number of ships that had run aground on the nearby Sawtooth Reef since the dismantling of the light at Eagle River. Sand Hills is about halfway between Eagle Harbor Light and Ontonagon, Michigan.[11]

The lighthouse was completed in May 1919 and was in service for 20 years as a manned aid to navigation operated by 3 keepers.[12] The site includes an oil house, garage, barracks building (1916, and used in World War II, and a concrete breakwater (1917).[13]

The station originally had a Fourth Order bullseye lens lighted by an oil vapor lamp, which was visible for 9.6 nautical miles; 18 kilometres (11 mi).[14]

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the Lighthouse and automated its use, eliminating the need for keepers.

In 1942, it was converted to a wartime Coast Guard training facility, housing and schooling roughly 200 trainees at a time. In 1943 it was closed as a training location and reverted to being simply a lighthouse.

It continued as an active lighthouse until 1954, when it was decommissioned,[15] in part due to improvements in weather forecasting and the adoption of radar.

It stayed empty and idle through the next few years, finally being liquidated and sold at public auction in 1958 for $26,000 to H. Donald Bliss, an insurance agent from the Detroit area.

In 1961, it was sold again to Bill Frabotta, a Detroit photographer and artist who used the fog station as a summer cottage. In 1992, Mr. Frabotta began a comprehensive 3 year rebuilding project, and along with his wife, Mary, converted the entire facility into a premier Bed and Breakfast Inn.[16] Mary Frabotta plays the 106-year-old parlor grand piano each evening for guests. It was selected by American Historic Inns as one of the ten most romantic inns in America" and rated in the top 15 Bed and Breakfasts with the Best Gourmet Breakfast by The Bed and Breakfast Journal.[4]

In 2001 the fog signal building was restored.[17]

The original fourth order Fresnel lens is on display at Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit.[18] However a similar lens is on display in the lighthouse. The original stucco fog signal building was restored in 2001.[17]

Sand Hills Light is the "twin" of the ill-fated 1940 Scotch Cap Light on Alaska's Unimak Island.[4] Scotch Cap Light was destroyed on April 1, 1946 when a massive tsunami struck the station, destroying it and killing its five-man crew,[19] the worst disaster to ever befall a land-based Coast Guard light station.[20][21]

Getting there[edit]

Take Highway 41 to Ahmeek, Michigan. Turn left at the first street and follow the signs to Five Mile Point Road. 7.5 miles up Five Mile Point Road is the Sand Hills Lighthouse is located 7.5 miles (12.1 km) up Five Mile Point Road. On the left there is "a nice sign at the entrance".[22]

The lighthouse operates as the Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn. The Inn is a totally smoke-free environment with no pets and 3,000 feet (910 m) of private Lake Superior shoreline.[23]

The lighthouse is privately owned. The grounds, dwelling, and tower are open for overnight guests.

See also[edit]

Undated USCG photo


  1. ^ National Park Service Maritime Heritage Project, Inventory of Historic Lighthouses, Sand Hills Light.
  2. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. 
  3. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. 
  4. ^ a b c Sand Hills Light Bed and Breakfast, Exploring the North.
  5. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Sand Hills Light, but compare Wobser, David & Colt, Edin, Sand Hills Lighthouse, which opines it was 9.6 nautical miles; 18 kilometres (11 mi) originally.
  6. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Sand Hills (Lake Superior) Light ARLHS USA-721.
  7. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights (WLOL).
  8. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  9. ^ Big Bay Point Light is the only operational lighthouse in Michigan that is also a bed and breakfast. Lighthouse Bed and Breakfasts.
  10. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 
  11. ^ Lighthouse Central, Sand Hills light The Ultimate Guide to Upper Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2007). ISBN 978-0-9747977-2-4.
  12. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Sand Hills Light.
  13. ^ Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Sand Hills Light.
  14. ^ Wobser, David & Colt, Edin, Sand Hills Lighthouse, at
  15. ^ Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses. Detroit News.
  16. ^ Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn.
  17. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  18. ^ Dossin Great Lakes Museum and its Fresnel lens.
  19. ^ Baker, James, Tsunami at Scotch Cap, March, 2005, Lighthouse Digest.
  20. ^ Dowling Dennis, The Demise Of Scotch Cap Light Station.
  21. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Alaska". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  22. ^ Anderson, Kraig, Lighthouse Friends, Big Bay Point Lighthouse.
  23. ^ Michigan lighthouse fund, Sand Hills Light. at Pure Michigan.

External links[edit]